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Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,350 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
Stilwell & the American Experience in China, 1911-45 was written by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman & published in '71 by Macmillan Publishers. It won the '72 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The book was republished in 2001 by Grove Press. It was also published under the title Sand Against the Wind: Stilwell & the American Experience in China, 1911-45 by Macmi ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 816 pages
Published July 1st 1984 by Bantam (first published 1971)
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Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All the previous books of Barbara Tuchman that I’ve read have had a picture of the author, looking something like this:


Older, with the Sandra Day O’Connor hairdo, well-heeled, professorial even. Nothing wrong with that, of course; but it does conjure up a certain delicacy, a life lived in equal parts libraries and privilege.

But on the back of this book, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, the author looks out at me from atop a burro, her means of transportation in the 1930s i
I first read this book about 25 years ago. I recently read the Fenby biography of Chiang Kai Shek, and really felt the need to go back and re-read the Stilwell biography. Along with McCullough's Truman, this is one of the finest biographies I have ever read. The Stilwell biography relentlessly pounds home the lesson that we as Americans can never expect members of alien cultures to have the same goals and motivations that we have. Stilwell tried mightily to get Chiang to fight China's Japanese i ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Somehow in my reading experience, I missed this Barbara Tuchman book and I thought I had read all of her works. I am so glad I found it since it opens up some of the little known facts about China during WWII......a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle. At almost 700 pages one might think it would be a dry read but it is fascinating and certainly explodes some of the myths about China's role in WWII. Although American General "Vinegar" Joe Stilwell is featured, he is only a part of the overall ...more
Mikey B.
This book illustrates well the dangers of involvement in a foreign country – even during wartime when the cause appears justified.

Stillwell was obviously a good candidate to be America’s representative; he had already spent several years in China and spoke the language. He certainly was not someone, common in this day and age, who arrives at the airport hotel and is surrounded by an entourage of well-wishers. Stillwell was independent-minded and often clashed with both the Chinese government an
Erik Graff
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Tom Kosinski
Shelves: biography
It is difficult to decide whether this title is best categorized as history, for it is about China, or biography, for it China as seen through the career of Joseph Stilwell. Indeed, it is often through his eyes as Tuchman had access through his surviving family to Stilwell's correspondence, notes and voluminous journals.

In any case, you will learn about the man, the nation and about the eastern theatre of the second world war from reading this book. You will not have to know much in advance. Tuc
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is very large book covering history I knew almost nothing about. World war II in China and Burma. A key reason I knew nothing about it is, I suppose, because it was so unimportant to the overall prosecution of the war and victory. After reading the book, I now realize that it was very important in a terrible sort of way.
The fact is that the huge amount of war material that was sent to China, in the belief that China would fight the Japs, was totally and completely wasted. The loss of this
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WWII was Eurocentric. That is, American policy and conduct of the war in the Far East was largely determined by events in Europe. While Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and MacArthur became household names, folks either have to go to a war museum or read this book to learn about General Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell. Stilwell fought not only the Japanese, but all the maladies and dangers of jungle fighting. He did so with secondary or even tertiary priority for both troops and supplies, with mountin ...more
Raise your hand if you ever heard the name Joseph Stilwell? How about Eisenhower? McArthur? George Marshall? Chester Nimitz? Yah, Stilwell was right up there with them as a 4-star general and commander of the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. He didn't become president (in fact, he died a year after the war ended). He didn't become Secretary of State like Marshall. He wasn't a demigod like McArthur. There's no nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named after him. Why?

Interesting story,
This book was on the recommended reading list associated with a possible trip to China. It covers the period from the fall of the last Emperor of China through World War II, on the cusp of the civil war between Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist Kuomintang and Mao's insurgents.

It is a dense and thoroughly, almost incredibly so, researched work. It traces this fascinating period of Chinese history through the life and perspective of the colorful, plain spoken, effective, and ultimately sidelined chara
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're not drinking Narragansett, you're still reading Stilwell and the American Experience in China. While this slogan might not sell much Narragansett Beer, if you finish this book you should be proud and reward yourself with your favorite indulgence -liquid, solid or otherwise.

I began reading this book on APRIL 23 and finally finished it this afternoon. It is truly a good book. Barbara Tuchman is a good historian, even if she does take untenable positions, as my late brother Philip the his
Ann Mcelligott
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A fascinating book about an world war II general, "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, about China and Chang Kai Shek, and about American policy in the Far East. And I knew next to nothing about any of this history.

Stilwell spent the majority of his military career in China including leading the Burma campaign. He and Chang Kai Shek were at constant loggerheads as to military strategy and tactics. Chang was seeking to be as well equipped after the war in order to face the Cpolommunists after the war. But he
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gave up on this book about half way through. The good things about this book are the parts about Stilwell and his experience in the American military. The bad parts are the dumb racism that Tuchman engages in.

By racism, I mean that she often discounts the ability of Asians to be democratic (or intelligent or comprehensible) just because they are Asian. When writing about J.O.P. Bland, a western leader in the treaty ports, she tells us that Bland stated that democracy is "wholly inaplicable beca
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bob by: Paul Merrigan
David Halberstam mentions this book in The Best and The Brightest as a detailed study of the background in China that drove American decision-making in the 1950s and 1960s. Tuchman is an excellent writer (won the Pulitzer for this one), and the story follows the career of General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell in China from 1911-1945. Much of Tuchman's focus is on the flaws in American foreign and military policy in China during this period; despite the continual warnings from Stilwell and others ...more
Au Yong Chee Tuck
The title in the 1970 Macmillan edition was "Sand Against the Wind: Stilwell & the American Experience in China 1911-45". Unfortunately, the new editions have eliminated the phrase "Sand Against the Wind."
This phrase cogently summed up what Stilwell was desperately trying to achieve in China working with or without the co-operation of Chiang Kai-shek.
It is rare to find female historians writing about what is essentially military history. The late Ms Tuchman has raised the bar for military hi
David Steece, Jr.
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war-2
Focused on an oft ignored subject with mostly unknown, extremely charismatic characters. Incredible in its breadth and depth. Novelistic in its attention to detail and the interiority of its main subject, whose journals allow the reader to actually come to know Stilwell in ways that most histories never even approach. Stands with "A Bright Shining Lie" as one of the great works of American history.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent account of the frustrations of Stilwell trying to ensure an active participation of the Chinese nationalists in the Second World War portion of the fight against the Japanese.

Writing in the early 1970'es Barbara Tuchman - perhaps with a hidden agenda - demonstrates the how American forthrightness and can do attitude ultimately comes to naught when face with the vastly more expanded time-perspective and more shrewd and cynical perspectives of the Middle Kingdom.
Dana Stabenow
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Americans screwing up in Asia is a long tradition.
Read by Pam Ward. Unabridged

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Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm was not surprised to discover that Tuchman won her second Pulitzer for this book. A biography of General Joseph Stilwell as well as a chronicle of official American interaction with China, focused primarily on WWII. It's a very complex story which Tuchman makes extremely readable and interesting, and which sheds light on the military and political problems of our own time in Iraq and Afghanistan. First, the US always wants to promote democracy but ends up supporting regimes which cannot sust ...more
Derotha Ann
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of a series of books that I began reading after I graduated from UNR. I spent ten years getting my BA, and I was somewhat sick of reading after finally graduating. I was tired. I had spent the last few years working full time while going to school. With a degree in English, and a minor in social studies, including sociology, psychology, social psychology, history, and political science. . . and throw in a lot of work over the years in the University theater, with one summer spent as ...more
Peter Kahn
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A much easier read than Tuchman's "Guns of August" the book described extreme Stilwel's career and the extreme challenges faced during his quixotic mission in China. Chiang Kai-shek and theKuo-min-tang regime seemed caught by circumstance, environment, or their own incompetence in a downward spiral of graft and inaction. Stilwell's success and deepset flaws offer great object lessons in the application and limitations of personal power. Leadership gains some strength based on position, but relie ...more
Matthew Calamatta
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hope in failure

As much as a history of a place and time, this tells the eternal tale of the battle between what is right and what is possible. A rich broth of the strategic and the mundane, hope and despair, plans, disasters and making do; beyond one man's struggle, the uncaring seismic shifts of history.
Riley Haas
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Tuchman appears to be attempting two disparate things with this book: to tell the story of Joseph Stillwell's career in the military and to tell the story of US intervention in China from the (first) Chinese revolution to the expulsion of the Kuomintang. She succeeds at the former a lot more than the latter, in part because this book is just way too US-centric.
Tuchman does a remarkable job of trying to understand Chinese culture, but at the end of the book one still feels like one is reading a
Justin K Kwon
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uncle Joe was the man

Great book on General Stilwell, probably the best General in World War II and the least known. General Stilwell is a person that we can look up to who embodies selfless service. Unfortunately he was surrounded by leaders with only political gains in mine. It's a shame that good people don't win and selfish people do.
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's one of Barbara's so I'm inclined to like it from the get go. Not a particularly light read, but extremely insightful, particularly the way it fleshes out the Asian theater in WWII. Having spent some time in Taiwan and China there was plenty to reflect on regarding that part of the world as it is now having come through this era.
Dec 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45," published in 1971, was the second book by Barbara W. Tuchman to win the Pulitzer Prize. The first was "The Guns of August."
To be honest, I will not have quite finished it by the end of today, when I must return it to the library. And, to be honest, I will not altogether be unhappy to be done with it.
The title tells you what it's about, other than perhaps to add "Gen. Joseph" or "Vinegar Joe" before the name Stilwell.
I'm at a point in the
Gary Brecht
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although much has been written about American WWII military leaders such as George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D, Eisenhower, the contribution to our nation’s ultimate victory by Joseph Stillwell remains somewhat obscured. Barbara Tuchman’s biography of “Vinegar Joe” addresses this oversight. One reason for this relative obscurity is due to the fact that the theater to which he was assigned (China and Burma) was in fact one the War’s most complex. Until Chiang Kai-shek consolidated ...more
Steve Li
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book chronicles Stillwell's life from birth (1911) to death (1945). He first went to China in 1920 and spoke fluent Chinese. He was the military attache to China (1935-39) and commander of US forces and allied chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) in 1942-44. While he was commander of the forces in China he also had to deal with the British, who had a different agenda in Far East, CKS, the communists Chinese, the Japanese and another US General Chenault. All of these factions had their ow ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a tremendous work. Joe Stillwell is the lost general of WWII. Mired, due to his diligence, integrity, and most importantly, ability to speak Chinese, in the China Theatre of WWII, Stillwell is a tragic figure, an island of reason and ingenuity in a sea of mad characters like Chiang Kaishek, Claire Chennault, Mao Tse-Tung and the entire British military heirarchy of South-east asia (the worst of which: gave up 80,000 men without a fight in Singapore).
Tuchman's writing is both meticulousl
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An account of General Joseph Stilwell and the Nationalist China that he vainly tried to save. This book gives a good rendition of the illusions that America held over China and the bankrupt rule of Chiang Kai-shek.

The author's conclusion:

"In great things, wrote Erasmus, it is enough to have tried. Stilwell's mission was America's supreme try in China. He made the maximum effort because his temperament permitted no less; he never slackened and he never gave up. Yet the mission failed in its ultim
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner. She became best known for The Guns of August (1962), a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copie
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...

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